The veteran band Less Love returns to battle hitting with the most massive attack of their career. The new single Snow White Trash (Trump’s Americans) is in your face and ready to fight. The question is will wartorn America listen?
This year things have gone bonkers, topsy-turvy, upside down. The world is dealing with a virus as if it were 1918. The United States is dealing with racial issues as if it were the 1960’s. Oh, and, the Pentagon admitted they have a UFO. Nothing is what you once thought it was.
In addition to the bad, there is also some good. There is a new album available by the ’90s one-hit-wonders The Rentals. In addition, the often strange and surreal band The Flaming Lips released a new single as did their neighbors, fellow Oklahoma City artists, Less Love. After a very long drought in the Noise Rock genre, 2020 is proving to provide a bountiful harvest.
For those of you that won’t remember, Less Love is the band that four years ago gave us the eerily haunting single Horse Race. The song was overly distorted and loud while also being beautiful with its simple piano lead. A project that included ten voices singing, the single was the pinnacle of Less Love’s sound and their (at that time) ten-year career. The band received press, award nominations, and began playing music festivals. It all lasted for approximately three months. After that, they were suddenly gone: no more music, no more Less Love.
Like so many surprising things, 2020 has given us a new Less Love single titled Snow White Trash (Trump’s Americans). Along with that, there was also the announcement of a new album to be called Everybody’s Somebody’s Satan due out December 15th of this year.
But where did they go? Another question: why has the band that always gave us wonderful harmonies now abandon that completely and is, instead, screaming at us? I had a discussion with Less Love singer Sky Mac in an attempt to find the answers.
Congratulations on your new single.
Sky: Thank you.
It is such a powerful song not like anything you have released before. Can you explain what was the catalyst for this transformation?
Sky: No catalyst really. It seemed like a natural progression at the time. Billy and I formed Less Love in 2006. We always intended the band to sound like this from the beginning. Now fourteen years later it seems strange that it took us so long but we allowed things to happen organically.
Wow, that is a very long time. Can you explain what you mean by allowing things to happen organically?
Sky: We are not a traditional band. We began as a side project to Billy’s band Wondernaut. Everything we ever accomplished was far more difficult than it should have been. We spent ten years with just this constant revolving door of band members.
I never wanted to sing so I played rhythm guitar. Billy was the singer for Wondernaut. Had he been the main singer for Less Love it would be hard to tell where Wondernaut ended and Less Love began. It’s like that guy that sang for Slipknot and Stone Sour. At first, they sounded completely different so no problem. Then when Stone Sour began selling more albums than Slipknot the decision-makers at S.K. said ‘we want some of that money too.’ That’s when S.K. started releasing the occasional song that sounded just like Stone Sour. Basically the same band at that point.
So we were committed to having a female that sang lead with Billy and I singing around that. We went through a lot of female singers, drummers, etc. Billy and I just kept working. As another member would fall away we would just replace them with a new flavor of the month.
Throughout this process, we would bring a song to a vocalist and try to get her to scream. Right now screaming is not in style. Vocalists want to be as pretty and pitch-perfect as possible. So when we couldn’t get them to come closer to what we wanted we moved closer to their comfort zone. Songs that were written guitar-heavy became piano ballads.
In 2016 your single Horse Race was nominated for an Independent Music Award. Your video for the song won a Global Music Award for Best Music Video. In the middle of that attention, Less Love disappeared. What happened?
Sky: The wheels came off. The band fell apart. We went from five members down to just one.
There is a funny thing about unsigned musicians. They have a lot of ideas regarding what it takes to be successful, but despite this divine insight none of them are “successful.”
Often they repeat the same trite propaganda that they heard, and wanted to believe. An example of one of those untruths is “you have to make your music available on vinyl.” The fact is in 2016 more people bought vinyl than any other year, and that year vinyl sales only accounted for 4% of all music bought. Ninety-six percent of music consumers (or more in most years) don’t want to deal with a bulky vinyl collection.
Another popular lie unsigned musicians tell themselves is “Spotify is where artists make money now.” That was a lie started by the major labels because while their artists are not being paid very much by Spotify the major labels are being paid a very large blanket sum. This is a payment in exchange for the majors making their entire catalog available to Spotify. Since that payment isn’t for specific song plays the labels are not obligated to share it with artists.
Before recording Horse Race we had been fighting against all these untruths. Shamefully, I admit we were willing to be martyrs to prove them wrong. Then at the end of 2013, a major change happened in the music industry. It affected every musician big and small. That change was consumers’ preference to stream music instead of owning it.
We spent two years trying to rebound from that change. We decided to pick our battles. Out of desperation, as a final effort, we started doing things on the list of “things you have to do if you want to be successful.” That was why we made the decision to record Horse Race with a legit producer.
The song turned out great. I am still very proud of it. The video also turned out better than I could have hoped. We received a lot of attention, mentioned in magazines, even listed for Grammy consideration. In the end, it didn’t matter. Alone we could not turn the tides. People no longer buy music.
When I was a kid if you added up your parents, grandparents, aunts uncles, and all your friends you could have an approximate idea of how many copies of a song or album you would sell. Today if you sold that many, no joke, you might chart on Billboard. Things have sunk so low if you can sell 200 copies or more that will be enough for you to chart on Billboard.
The post Horse Race reality was flattering and disappointing. In response, Billy gave up. Up until then, when anybody else left, he and I were committed to carrying on. For the first time, I was alone. I didn’t know how to recover.
How many members of the band remain now?
Sky: it is mostly just me. Billy remains a member the same way Dave Fridmann remains a member of Mercury Rev. He is there for anything I ask him to do, but he lives in Moscow, Russia and right now I am COVID stranded in SE Asia.
Did Billy participate in the recording of the new single?
Sky: Yes, he played bass. More than that he was a key part in the writing of the song. We write by recording a song and seeing what works. Billy engineered the demo process on Snow White Trash. We recorded multiple drummers looking for a specific style. I also recorded multiple guitar ideas and Billy helped me determine what worked best.
You said you didn’t know how to recover. What was the solution?
Sky: Around that time I became friends with a local legend, blues guitarist Scott Keeton. Initially, he was going to produce Snow White Trash for me. He had some major life changes take place and it didn’t work out. Prior to any of that, when we first met, I mentioned to him the revolving door of musicians and he told me something that I didn’t want to hear. He said in his own career he was never able to accomplish anything until he gave up the dream of making magic with childhood friends and just started hiring professional players.
Once Billy told me he did not want to do Less Love full time I was left with only Scott’s advice. Turned out to be the best advice ever. I should have done it sooner. Having never worked with hired professionals I didn’t grasp the obvious. I pay them to do a specific thing, and they do it. That was when the music began sounding the way I always wanted it to sound.
You have described your upcoming album as an anthology. What can we expect?
Sky: It is the bulk of what we have recorded. It is my goodbye to the old band. Any track on which any past member participated is on this album, a couple of new versions of old songs, and at least two songs that have never been released.
Once it is out then I have to decide what path I want to follow. Maybe I will continue Less Love alone. Maybe I will pursue a solo career. At this point not much difference.
The industry has changed, but you remain committed to the cause. As we end this interview is there any advice you would bestow upon an up and coming musician?
Sky: The best advice I can offer a young musician is to learn everything you can about publishing/sync licensing: getting songs in commercials, or TV shows, or Video games, etc.
Some successful companies you can look at regarding this are Riptide Publishing and Marmoset Music. Go to college, study law or business, and do an internship with a company like one of these. If you do you will be able to secure a future living off of your music.